Cocaine: Losing the hearts and minds

 Once the drug of choice for the rich and famous, cocaine powder has now become the most used drug in the UK after cannabis:

 • Scotland is ranked as having the highest rate of cocaine use in the world (UN World Drug 2011 report

• The UK as a whole tops the European league table for cocaine use 

•Nearly 15% of all 18 to 34 year olds in the UK reported having tried cocaine at least once in their lives (EMCDDA report) 

• The European cocaine market is valued at an estimated $33 billion, only $4billion below the US

 Two recent studies might help explain these figures.

 Scientists have studied the brains of 120 people, half of whom had a dependence on cocaine. Scans revealed those who had used cocaine had damaged their central nervous system.  Significantly, the study associated the damage caused by cocaine use with a greater desire to take more, concluding that dependence is a disorder of the brain caused by use of the drug.

 In another article published last week it is suggested that heavy cocaine users might not even realise the extent to which their habit is causing serious damage to their heart, because they won’t necessarily have any symptoms. Autopsy studies revealed that around 1 in 5 cocaine addicts had a damaged heart muscle, with the researchers proposing that a quarter of non-fatal heart attacks among the under 45’s are associated with cocaine.

 The Government’s drug advisors are now undertaking a review of cocaine. This will hopefully address the hidden harms that it can cause, and the UK can lose it’s title as the biggest cocaine user in Europe.

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